Sunday, May 13, 2012

Where Fate Begins

Arrive too late and you miss out. Leave too early and ditto. Stay in one place and they find you.

By the time I was in the mood to go out, it was 9ish and I had a hankering for Aziza's on Main.

Not for anything in particular because the menu always changes, but definitely in the mood for a small place, a low-key vibe and in all likelihood, a cream puff.

I walked into a bustling restaurant playing upbeat '50s music and when all was said and done, I was too full for dessert.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

With a glass of South African wine in front of me (Man Vintner Sauvignon Blanc), I did something I almost never do.

I chose an entree.

And I had no problem deciding what I wanted: squab with wild mushrooms and gnocchi.

Before I could even order it, the bartender informed me that they were out of one item. Guess which one.

Seems one of the large graduation parties had all but wiped them out of squab.

Instead I opted for the seared John Dory with bacon, spring bean succotash and salsa verde, counting on bacon and beans to make me forget small birds and potato pasta.

The fish was flaky with crisp edges and the succotash of sauteed onions, fresh peas, fava beans and haricot vert offered sweet and salty and tasted like spring on a plate.

Wisely, I did my best to include a little cube of the thick-cut bacon in every bite.

All hope for a cream puff were lost after that.

Leaving Aziza's, I walked right into the shower of bubbles being generated from the roof across the street at 2113.

It sounds corny but it actually had a certain charm at that point in the evening (that point being pre-Bottom madness).

Next on my agenda was a show at the Camel and a very small crowd was there when I arrived.

I took a seat near the sound booth only to overhear two girls at the next table.

"It's amazing to me that someone who drinks every day of the week has never built up any tolerance," the blond said.

"Who are you talking about?" the brunette inquired.

"My Dad!" blond explained as Dad returned from the bathroom.

Moments later Richmond band From Fragile Seeds took the stage. I'd read that they were post rock so I was more than a little surprised that they had vocals.

Their dynamic sound (two guitars, bass and drum creating soundscapes) definitely fit the bill but the vocals came across as emo bordering on hardcore.

Since vocals are usually droning or gibberish (Sigur Ros) in post rock, they didn't quite work for me, at least as post-rock.

But the guitars as a means of building tension and evoking emotion was spot on.

Free CDs were available "unprotected" on a nearby table, we were told.

"We've got two more and that's 66% of that CD over there," the lead singer said. "That's two thirds!" he whispered to the math-challenged among us.

After their set, the nearby Dad turned to me, saying how glad he was to see someone nearer his own age.

Tony made his own introductions. A former business consultant from NOVA, he'd switched to owning a sailboat charter company in Annapolis.

Inquiring if I knew someone in the band, I explained that I'd come to hear D.C. band Vandaveer, whom I'd seen before and knew I liked.

At that moment, the duo got up on stage.

"She's in the band?" he asked about singer Rosie and I nodded. "I saw her sitting outside and I almost offered to pay her cover to get in. That would have been embarrassing."

With Dylan-like vocals and lyrics like "You've got  a fistful of swoon," Vandaveer immediately captured the attention of the mere twenty people in the room.

Tony turned around and said, "You were right! They're great!"

Uh huh. Now hush.

The band went on to play some of their current project, an album of hundred-year old murder ballads.

One was about a North Carolina man who murdered his wife and then his six children.

With Rosie's beautiful harmonies complementing Mark's vocals, we heard several murder ballads including one they wrote themselves.

After a song about a ghost story, Tony turned around again, saying, "You should come up to Annapolis and let me take you sailing."

I'll keep that in mind only because I've been in Annapolis twice in the past month after fifteen years of not being there at all.

Now hush.

As Sunday drew near, singer Mark reminded everyone to call their mothers, but not at this hour.

"I was born on Mother's Day and I weighed ten pounds," he said. "That's about the worst present you can give a mother on Mother's Day."

It was too bad the crowd wasn't bigger for the beautiful music that Vandaveer played, but at least they were enthusiastic about our practically private show, clapping and cheering after each.

I was particularly enamored of the lyric, "Go swim in the deep end and find out where fate begins."

A word to the wise is sufficient.

As I was sinking into a song with the line, "Oh, honey, dreams are rarely what they seem," Tony turned around yet again and handed me his card.

"Let me take you sailing," he said, smiling and taking my hand.

Dad may not have had tolerance but he certainly had persistence.

Down to their last song, Mark said, "We have been and forever shall be Vandaveer," and the alt-folk duo left our ears with a song about "However many takes it takes."

Funny, that's exactly how many takes I was planning on to get this life of mine right.

Assisted by a fistful of swoon, of course.

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